New study to provide insights into young Europeans' health-related diet and lifestyle choices

September 5, 2013
New study to provide insights into young Europeans' health-related diet and lifestyle choices
Credit: Shutterstock

Why do some children live on a diet of fast food while others eat healthily? What causes a teenager to choose a hamburger over a salad? Why do some choose to exercise whilst others do not? What are the health consequences of a poor diet, lack of physical activity and other risk factors? And is it possible to steer children and their families towards healthier lifestyle choices? Those questions and many more are investigated by far-reaching research into the dietary and lifestyle behaviour of young Europeans.

Around 22 million children in the European Union are considered overweight or obese, with the numbers growing by 400 000 every year. They face serious health and social risks, including cardiovascular disease, , orthopaedic problems, underachievement in school and low self-esteem, and stand a 60 per cent chance of becoming overweight or . Even many teenagers who are not overweight are also at risk of these disorders, because of unhealthy diets and low levels of physical activity.

In order to address these unhealthy the underlying factors causing young Europeans to eat poorly and exercise less must be understood. That is the goal of a five-year study currently being conducted by a pan-European consortium of universities and research institutes in the EU-funded project I.Family ('Determinants of eating behaviour in European children, adolescents and their parents').

Building on the results of the IDEFICS project, which studied about 16 000 pre-teen children, the I.Family study invites these children plus their siblings and parents to participate in a follow-up. The follow-up is focusing on teenagers and in particular '' - 11- and 12-year-olds who are at a crucial stage in their development.

This cohort of children and their families are being studied in eight centres across Europe - Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Sweden - in an effort to unravel the interplay between complex lifestyle, behavioural and genetic factors and their impact on dietary habits and health outcomes.

Through questionnaires, interviews on relationships and health, psychological tests and physical examinations, coupled with biological samples and measurements of physical activity, the researchers aim to compare children and their families who have developed or maintained a healthy diet and lifestyle with those whose diet and lifestyle has developed in an unfavourable direction.

Because the children being studied were already examined in the IDEFICS study, the researchers will be able to compile a profile over many years of the factors behind good or bad dietary choices.

They can determine, for example, if having two working parents leads to the consumption of more fast food, or whether concerns about safety on the streets in urban areas causes city-dwelling children to take less physical activity and live more sedentary lives.

By gathering information about children's current health, and drawing on the detailed information they already have about the subjects in their early years, the I.Family team will be able to investigate the pathways leading to different health outcomes such as obesity and metabolic disorders and their precursors in as they grow up.

Among similar socio-economic groups with contrasting behaviours, the project plans to measure factors such as brain activation, the expression of genes related to food choice, the biological and genetic basis for taste thresholds, the role of sleep and sedentary time, physical activity and the impact of their surrounding environment.

Armed with this knowledge, the researchers then hope to be able to guide new approaches to promote healthy eating and behaviour to support policy development at the European, national and local levels, enabling more families to make healthier choices.

The project is being managed by Professor Wolfgang Ahrens of the University of Bremen in Germany with funding of more than EUR 11.5 million, of which EUR 9 million came from the EU.

I.FAMILY involves a consortium of 17 partner institutions from 12 EU countries. The project ends in February 2017.

Explore further: Study suggests focus on lifestyle changes—not weight loss—is key to kids' health

More information: I.FAMILY www.ifamilystudy.eu/

Related Stories

Study suggests focus on lifestyle changes—not weight loss—is key to kids' health

August 22, 2013
A UCLA School of Nursing study has found that both healthy-weight and obese children who participated in an intensive lifestyle modification program significantly improved their metabolic and cardiovascular health despite ...

Children without siblings are significantly more likely to be overweight

September 17, 2012
Children who grow up without siblings have a more than 50 percent higher risk of being overweight or obese than children with siblings. This is the finding of a study of 12,700 children in eight European countries, including ...

The road to better health for adolescents

August 6, 2013
From anorexia and asthma to cataracts, diabetes and obesity, illnesses and conditions that develop in middle age very often originate in childhood and adolescence. Evidence suggests that if adolescents had healthier lifestyles, ...

Parenting and home environment influence children's exercise and eating habits

June 18, 2013
Kids whose moms encourage them to exercise and eat well, and model those healthy behaviors themselves, are more likely to be active and healthy eaters, according to researchers at Duke Medicine.

Better-educated parents feed children fewer fats and less sugar

March 27, 2013
The level of education of parents has an influence on the frequency with which their children eat foods linked to obesity. The children of parents with low and medium levels of education eat fewer vegetables and fruit and ...

Junk food may lead to mental health problems in children

August 20, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—New research suggests that mums with unhealthy diets during pregnancy are more likely to have children with behavioural problems. It has also shown that children with unhealthy diets have increased symptoms ...

Recommended for you

Amber-tinted glasses may provide relief for insomnia

December 15, 2017
How do you unwind before bedtime? If your answer involves Facebook and Netflix, you are actively reducing your chance of a good night's sleep. And you are not alone: 90 percent of Americans use light-emitting electronic devices, ...

Warning labels can help reduce soda consumption and obesity, new study suggests

December 15, 2017
Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

Office work can be a pain in the neck

December 15, 2017
Neck pain is a common condition among office workers, but regular workplace exercises can prevent and reduce it, a University of Queensland study has found.

Regular takeaways linked to kids' heart disease and diabetes risk factors

December 14, 2017
Kids who regularly eat take-away meals may be boosting their risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, suggests research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Simulation model finds Cure Violence program and targeted policing curb urban violence

December 14, 2017
When communities and police work together to deter urban violence, they can achieve better outcomes with fewer resources than when each works in isolation, a simulation model created by researchers at the UC Davis Violence ...

One in five patients report discrimination in health care

December 14, 2017
Almost one in five older patients with a chronic disease reported experiencing health care discrimination of one type or another in a large national survey that asked about their daily experiences of discrimination between ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.